Mukbang is a viral internet sensation that took off in the 2010s in Korea and subsequently worldwide in the following years. Every day you can witness thousands of people live-streaming themselves eating online (mainly on YouTube, Twitch, and AfreecaTV) for the world to see.
But the catch to mukbang is – there’s so much more than meets the eye.
We’ve all watched food shows on the television growing up. From Huey’s Cooking many years ago in our childhoods to competitions like MasterChef and Bake Off that are blasted across our screens today, no one’s a stranger to watching people cooking and eating delicious meals on the screen.
The difference between mukbang and these shows, however, varies profoundly.
Some of the statistics for mukbang, in fact, will shock you, especially if you haven’t been exposed to the community before.
There are people being paid tens of thousands to eat food, visit restaurants, use certain ingredients – it’s all big bucks, big audiences, and big food with mukbang these days.
Let’s take a deep dive into this cultural Korean phenomenon that’s now a global staple.
What is Mukbang?
Mukbang is essentially a live-streamed video where viewers can watch the host eat.
The phrase mukbang was derived from the Korean words ‘meokbang’, which is a combination of ‘meongneun’ meaning eating, and ‘bangsong’ meaning broadcast.
Since conception, mukbang has grown from simply eating in front of the camera to offering many varieties of video style for their audiences.
One of the most popular varieties of mukbang is ASMR mukbang. ASMR stands for ‘autonomous sensory meridian response’, and ASMR mukbang videos aim to make the viewers ‘feel’ the eating experience.
Using more sensitive microphones, the hosts are able to capture sounds such as chewing, crunching, slurping, and swallowing in detail.
When viewers hear those sounds and associate it with the live stream, it gives them the sensation of being included in the eating experience.
Another variety of mukbang is ‘cook-bang’. As the name suggests, this is when the host takes the audience on a journey of preparing and cooking their entire meal as part of the video. Often these videos are shot beforehand rather than live so that they can edit the videos to be succinct.
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Mukbang In Numbers
To give you an idea of just how popular the concept of mukbang is, have a look at the following stats:
- Jane ASMR, considered the Queen of ASMR in Korea, started back in 2012 and boasts over 16.5 million subscribers. She never shows her face, wears a signature red lipstick, and is reported by Social Blade to earn between $26.8k – $428.1k a month.
- Mukbang isn’t just limited to Korea. ASMR Mukbang YouTuber HunniBee ASMR from Canada earns more than $1 million a month by sharing videos of her eating.
- If you’re interested in starting a channel but you’re worried that it might be too late, don’t be. Popular mukbang YouTuber tzuyang started her YouTube mukbang channel relatively recently at the end of 2018 but has amassed more than 5 million subscribers since then.
- According to a study by Seoul National University, between 2017-2019, ‘mukbang’ was searched over 100,000 times on YouTube. You can bet that it’s increased quite a bit since then!
- If you combine the stats of Eat With Boki, Hamzy, and Jane ASMR (considered amongst the top Korean mukbang channels on YouTube according to the number of followers), you’re looking at a whopping over 33.99 million subscribers, earning a total of over 3.4 million USD a month. What!
The 5 Reasons Why People Watch Mukbang Videos
1. Eating Alone Feels Less Lonely
The social culture of countries like Japan and Korea has dramatically shifted in recent years. The term ‘honbap’ was coined in Korea to described the increasing desire to eat solo. The consequences of the heavy gaming culture and decreasing social culture there also mean that many young people will opt to stay at home in front of the computer than go out and socialize.
As a result, to ease the loneliness they might feel, many will tune into live-streaming mukbang channels during dinnertime to ‘eat with the host’.
2. Interactive Culture of Mukbang
All famous mukbang hosts have substantial and growing audiences because they interact with them and resonate with them. People will tune into live-streamed mukbang videos and chat in the chatbox as though they are friends with the host.
In turn, the host can choose to answer any questions during the live stream. This experience can almost be likened to sitting around a table and chatting with a friend.
3. Satisfaction of Enormous Amounts of Food
It’s a scientific fact that as we grow older, our metabolism slows down and we are not able to consume as much as we could in our youth. This is certainly a saddening fact, but with mukbang, we can live vicariously through another individual!
Certain mukbang hosts garner huge audiences because of their ability to consume copious amounts of food – we’re talking 20,000+ calories per meal!
We may not be able to do it, but witnessing the act of someone else doing it during a live stream will give you an immense level of satisfaction, almost as though you were doing it yourself.
4. Escape From Reality
ASMR Mukbang has been described by some as a multisensory experience, and in watching it, you’re escaping your reality through your senses.
When watching the close-up detailed method of someone eating to listening to their chewing sounds, many audience members will actually sense as though they can taste, smell, and feel the experience themselves.
5. Helps With Dieting!
As bizarre as this sounds, apparently mukbang also does wonders when you’re dieting!
Watching mukbang can help you become mentally satiated as you also imagine yourself eating along with the mukbang host. Again, the multisensory experience, especially with ASMR mukbang, will enable some people to feel as though they were a part of the eating experience as well.
Many mukbang hosts will often mimic the action of feeding the audience through the camera by lifting their food up towards the screen. This technique creates the illusion of the shared experience of eating and contributes to the mental satiation of the viewer.
The Most Famous Mukbangers
These days, there are plenty of mukbang videos on streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, so you’d be spoilt for choice if you’re looking to get started on watching it.
However, there are certain famous mukbangers who are popular for a reason.
1. Eat With Boki
Eat With Boki is one of the most entertaining mukbang channels in Korea. Boki is known to have a huge mouth and can fit in large portions of food – bigger than you can imagine! She has a signature white spoon that’s typically used for serving but instead, she uses it to eat.
- YouTube: Eat With Boki (7.82 million subscribers)
- Instagram: @eatwithboki
2. Jane ASMR
Jane ASMR is not hailed the Queen of ASMR in Korea for nothing. She started back in 2012 is considered an ‘OG’. She mainly eats sweets but occasionally mixes her meals up. Her ASMR sounds are beyond addictive.
- YouTube: Jane ASMR (16.5 million subscribers)
- Instagram: @jane.asmr
3. Zach Choi ASMR
Zach Choi is a Korean-American who is considered the King of ASMR on YouTube. His videos mainly consist of him silently eating, with some videos also showcasing him preparing the meals with intense audio recordings. He often has popular YouTube guests on his shows as well, but in line with his theme, they also stay silent whilst eating.
- YouTube: Zach Choi ASMR (13.4 million subscribers)
- Instagram: @zachchoi
Hamzy is reported to be the highest-earning mukbang host on YouTube. Her videos are rather casual, with her sitting on the floor next to her coffee table. The experience is almost as though you’re sitting at a friend’s house during her streams.
Tzuyang is a popular mukbang host who has a tiny figure and yet can finish a meal large enough for a family! She’s quite entertaining to watch, and is relatively interactive during her videos.
- YouTube: tzuyang (6.23 million subscribers)
- Instagram: @tzuyang70
6. Gongsam Table
Gongsam Lee is well-known for his amazingly realistic ASMR chewing sounds. From crunching to slurping, he gets it right every time for his viewers.
- YouTube: Gongsam Table (8.5 million subscribers)
- Instagram: @gongsam_table
7. Heungsam’s Family
Heungsam became a popular mukbang host on both YouTube and AfreecaTV. He often shows himself preparing his meal before filming himself eating it. He now films with both his parents and his audience are loving it!
YouTube: Heungsam’s Family (2.39 million subscribers)
We hope this introduction to mukbang has been a fun and entertaining read for you! The concept of mukbang may seem a bit outlandish for some people, especially if you’ve never come across it before, but it’s definitely worth giving the videos a shot.
Mukbang has grown exponentially in popularity over the years and the pleasurable videos you’ll come across on platforms like YouTube simply by searching ‘mukbang’ will surely convert you.
There are literally millions of people out there in the world actively, addictively, almost religiously following these people, so there must be a good reason, right?
For more interesting articles about Korean food, feel free to check out our list of Weird Korean Dishes and the 10 Spiciest Korean Food.